An Esther Fast for Such a Time as This

Want to annihilate Israel? Well, take a ticket and get in line! Multiple attempts to destroy Israel have come and gone, but the Jewish people are still here, just as God promised. At the Feast of Purim, we remember the Esther fast and her brave intervention. The wicked Haman was defeated and Israel was saved, but the threat from Persia (aka Iran) still looms today. It's time for another Esther fast. But now we are under a New Covenant in Messiah Jesus. He commanded us to love our enemies, and to pray for those who persecute us. This will be an Esther fast with a difference.

The amazing survival of the Jewish people

The attempts to destroy Israel have been manifold and did not start in 1948. Nor did antisemitism start with Jesus, as far too many Jewish people seem to think. The hatred of the Jewish people goes all the way back to the beginning of the people of Israel. Even before it really—the amount of barrenness blighting what would become the family tree of the Messiah is extraordinary, and indicative of just how badly the other side did not want this family to exist in the first place. But when everybody was successfully (often miraculously) born, the enemy wasted no time in his assassination attempts. Satan hates the Jewish people with a particular hatred. But the patriarchs managed to make it through famine and sword, and the twelve tribes of Israel eventually ended up in Egypt. And that's when the big guns start to come out.

Prayer is a spiritual battleFirst we have Pharaoh and his determination to drown every Israelite male in the Nile… but in the end God threw Pharoah's men into the sea instead. The waters covered over that episode and the people of Israel lived on.

Next as they slaves walked amazed and bedraggled out of Egypt, the Amalekites tried to cut them off from behind, attacking the stragglers and determined to overcome the newly freed slaves. The old, the children, and the lame were the targets of that evil murderous hatred of Amalek, but God gave Moses the victory over their enemies as they prayed with arms raised to heaven.

With barely a break the Israelites fought battle after battle to reenter and remain in the land of their forefathers, facing threats from the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. The Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites also came against Israel, and the Amalekites were never entirely vanquished.

The Esther fast saved Israel from Amalek

Later in exile, the wicked Haman, second in line after the king of the Persian Empire (also from the line of Amalek, not coincidentally) tried to get the job done. An edict was made to annihilate every last Jewish person in the empire, but remarkably he didn't bank on the king's beloved bride being one of the tribe.

King of the jews devotionalQueen Esther called for a fast of her people: three days and three nights with no food or water. She petitioned the king, but only after they petitioned God. And God saw to it that Haman's plans unravelled and turned right back on himself. He and his family were wiped out, while Esther and her family escaped unscathed.

After they'd returned from exile in Babylon, the fighting for survival continues against the Greeks, the Romans, and there's the Herodian slaughter of babies in Bethlehem… then after the time of Jesus there's a whole series of violent and murderous persecutions at the hands of Christians, would you believe. Yes, Christians. Dr Michael Brown relays the whole sorry story of relentless persecution by the church in his book, “Our Hands are Stained With Blood”. It's true that Islam has an antisemitic streak in it a mile wide, but in general, Jewish people have been safer living in countries ruled by the crescent than those of the cross over the last ten centuries. Still, there have been plenty of murderous rampages by Muslims in which Jewish people were slaughtered such as the Khaybar massacre in 628 AD in Saudi Arabia.

The cross and the crescent

The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and multiple Pogroms have hacked away at the Jewish people over the years, but none have threatened complete extermination of the entire race quite like the Holocaust. This litany of murderous evils are perceived as distinctly “Christian” affairs among Jewish people, and with Nazi soldiers coming from the theoretically Christian country of Germany and wearing insignia which declared “Gott Mit Uns” (meaning, “God with us”) you can understand why. But God was not “mit” them, and yet again, it was the Nazis who met their end, not the Jewish people.

The Holocaust may not have caused the reestablishment of Israel, but it certainly catalyzed it. Then as soon as the state of Israel was reborn, it was attacked yet again from every side, by the surrounding Arab nations determined to wipe it off the map before it even got on there. Whether it's the 1948 battle for independence, the 1967 Six Day war, or the 1973 Yom Kippur war, Israel has been attacked again and again in an existential fight for our lives. The genocidal intentions of the neighbors to annihilate Israel completely are no secret. The rockets never stop. The terrorist attacks are endless. Sometimes the attacks are more concentrated and determined, such as the October 7 massacre which had been planned meticulously for years, bankrolled by Iran.

Yet here we are today.

Am Israel chai, the people of Israel are still alive, against all odds. As it says in the Passover Haggadah, “In every generation they rise up to destroy us – but the Holy One, Blessed be He, saves us from their hand.”

The sovereignty of God

Israel under attack: time for an Esther fast

Back in the nineteenth century, King Louis XIV asked the Christian mathematician and philosopher, Blaise Pascal, for some proof that there was a God. Pascal's answer? “The Jews, your majesty. The Jews.” Similarly, Tolstoy wrote:

“The Jew is the emblem of eternity. He whom neither slaughter nor torture of thousands of years could destroy. He whom neither fire nor sword nor inquisition was able to wipe off the face of the earth. He who was the first to produce the oracles of God. He who has been for so long the guardian of prophecy, and who transmitted it to the rest of the world – such a nation cannot be destroyed. The Jew is as everlasting as is eternity itself.”

The Jewish people do seem to be inextinguishable. But it's not because of any special powers of their own. It's the hand of God that preserves Israel, for His own name's sake. He has made promises. God made an eternal covenant with Abraham:

And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.” (Genesis 17:7)

And after being taken captive to Babylon, God assures His people that they will survive through these words of Jeremiah the prophet:

Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the Lord of hosts is his name:“If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the Lord, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever.” Thus says the Lord: “If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 31:35-37)

Anyone trying to destroy Israel is fighting against the God of Israel—to their own peril.

Praying for Iran and the enemies of Israel

Remembering the command to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors, let's not forget to lift up prayers for the Palestinian people, and the people of Iran. Let's pray for people in Hizbollah and the Houthis… all those filled with hate, and those simply caught in the crossfire. Far too many young Palestinians have been raised on a diet of hatred and are so indoctrinated that they will give their lives just to kill Israelis. They are easy pickings for evil men to exploit. But the Bible also has words of wisdom, warning young men not to go along with people planning to commit evil and murder:

If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason…

…these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives.” (Proverbs 1:11 and 18)

The advice comes, “My son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths” (verse 15). It's a powerful picture: wicked men lying in wait, getting ready to ambush innocent victims, only to discover that they've ambushed themselves.

It's much like the tale of Haman who ended up being hanged on his own gallows.

“Everybody, sooner or later, sits down to a banquet of consequences”, warned Robert Louis Stevenson.

You reap what you sow. It's a universal rule. A bit like gravity, but metaphysical. It cannot be bent or manipulated. It might take a while, but sooner or later, you will sit down to eat what you have been preparing. In the case of Israel's enemies, they are essentially plotting their own doom. Plotting the ruination of others is plotting the ruination of yourself. It's a tragedy being played out before our eyes: Israel's enemies have sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind. We're praying that instead of death, they'd find true life in Jesus.

An Esther fast with a difference

God loves all the people of the Middle East, not just Israel. God does not need a passport to cross over from one camp to another, and neither does the internet, carrying the good news of the Gospel. We are continuing to reach out and support people in Gaza who have responded to the Gospel as much as we can. Please pray for believers both in Israel and Gaza at this excruciating time, that we would be able to love and forgive by the power of God's Spirit, even under these circumstances. And let's also pray for the country of Iran which is behind so much of this terrible devastation. Iran may be controlling proxies like Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis around Israel's borders, but it's also home to the fastest growing church in the world. People are leaving Islam in droves. In a recent election, the turnout was just 7%, almost half of which were spoiled papers. Iranians are sick of the brutal and cruel Islamic regime, and are desperate for change.

In the three days leading up to Purim, March 20-23, many people are praying for Israel: for protection, salvation, and peace.

But also in those same three days, there is another Esther fast taking place for Iran: that the whole regime would be overthrown.

Let's join with our brothers and sisters in praying that the “head of the octopus” as Iran is sometimes called, would be destroyed. Just as the Archangel Michael, prince of God's people, fought against the Prince of Persia back in the time of Daniel, so we can add firepower to the spiritual battle still going on in the unseen realm with our prayers. I heard someone say that our prayers are like putting arrows in the hands of Michael in this war. Let's pray for a mighty victory in the heavenly realms as we come up to the Feast of Esther: May there be a massive turnaround for God's glory.

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